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The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has extended student loan help through at least January, 2022. Depending on your loan you may be eligible for:
This help only applies to ED loans. To see if your loan is an ED loan, go to https://studentaid.gov/help-center/answers/article/is-my-loan-federal-or-private
ED owned student loans are on a temporary payment suspension as of March 13, 2020. This means you don’t have to make monthly payments now. If you made a payment since March 13, 2020, you can request a refund from where you pay.
Bad credit should not be reported during the suspension period even if you choose to try and make payments.
All federal student loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education automatically had their interest rates lowered to 0% from March 13, 2020 until the COVID emergency relief period ends.
Private student loans, Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) loans that are owned by commercial lenders, and Federal Perkins Loans that are owned by schools are not eligible for the reduced interest rate. But you can consolidate these loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan, which is eligible for the 0% interest rate. If considering this, consider whether this is the best option long-term once the relief period and the 0% interest rate.
If your loan payments were reduced because of your low income, you do not have to recertify your income during the COVID-19 emergency relief period. If you keep your current address, you will be notified when it is time to recertify. Make sure to keep your contact information updated where you pay your loan.
Some people are trying to rip students off. There is no coronavirus-related loan forgiveness for federal student loans. There is no fee for the payment suspensions or 0% interest rate period from loan servicers or the federal government. If anyone contacts you asking for money to perform any of these services, it is a scam.
Scammers will stop at nothing to attempt to get personal information from vulnerable people looking for help in a crisis. Here are some common COVID-19 related scams and how to protect yourself from them.
Funeral expense scams
If you lost a loved one to COVID-19, you may be eligible for a government program that pays for funeral expenses. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will pay up to $9,000 for funeral expenses for loved ones who died of COVID-19. Survivors can apply for benefits by contacting FEMA, toll-free, at 844-684-6333. To find out if you qualify, read FEMA’s Funeral Assistance FAQs, also available in many other languages.
FEMA reports that scammers are contacting people and pretending to offer to register them for funeral expense benefits.
What to do: To avoid government imposter scams, here are some tips:
If you think you got a scam call, hang up and report it to the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 or the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov .
COVID-19 vaccine scams
As the COVID-19 vaccine is rolled out throughout the country, it is important to be on the lookout for scams. Beware of scams offering early access to vaccines for a fee. Do not share your personal or financial information if someone calls, texts, or emails you promising to get you the vaccine for a fee. Also, keep in mind that Medicare covers the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are also free to others throughout the country, although providers may charge an administration fee.
What to do: For the latest vaccine updates, check with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) .
COVID-19 cure, air filters, and testing scams
The FTC warned about an increasing number of scams related to test kits, cures or treatments, and air filter systems designed to remove COVID-19 from the air in your home. If you receive a phone call, email, text message, or letter with claims to sell you any of these items–it’s a scam.
What to do: Testing is available through local and state governments or through your medical providers.
Fake coronavirus-related charity scams
A charity scam is when a thief poses as a real charity or makes up the name of a charity that sounds real to get money from you. Be careful about any charity calling you asking for donations. And be wary if you get a call following up on a donation pledge that you don’t remember making–it could be a scam.
What to do: If you are able to help financially, visit the website of the organization of your choice to make sure your money is going to the right place.
"Person in need" scams
Scammers could use the circumstances of the coronavirus to pose as a grandchild, relative or friend who claims to be ill, stranded in another state or foreign country, or otherwise in trouble, and ask you to send money. They may ask you to send cash by mail or buy gift cards. These scammers often beg you keep it a secret and act fast before you ask questions.
What to do: Don’t panic! Take a deep breath and get the facts. Hang up and call your grandchild or friend’s phone number to see if the story checks out. You could also call a different friend or relative. Don’t send money unless you’re sure it’s the real person who contacted you.
Scams targeting Social Security benefits
While local Social Security Administration (SSA) offices are closed to the public due to COVID-19 concerns, SSA will not suspend or decrease Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security Income payments due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Scammers may mislead people into believing they need to provide personal information or pay by gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, or by mailing cash to maintain regular benefit payments during this period. Any communication that says SSA will suspend or decrease your benefits due to COVID-19 is a scam, whether you receive it by letter, text, email, or phone call.
What to do: Report Social Security scams to the SSA Inspector General online at oig.ssa.gov .
COVID-19 government imposter scams
Many of us are paying close attention to the guidance from federal, state, and local governments during this COVID-19 health emergency. Unfortunately, scammers are also paying attention. Some are even pretending to be affiliated with the government–just to scam you out of money.
What to do:
Student Loan Debt Relief scams
Scammers are targeting student loan borrowers and may be trying to take advantage of circumstances related to the pandemic and government relief packages. If someone contacts you and asks for personal information or a fee to suspend your student loan payment, it’s a scam. Scammers may also try to claim you are eligible for immediate loan forgiveness with fake promises of loan cancelation through “Biden Loan Forgiveness” or “CARES Act loan forgiveness.” These programs do not exist. Loan forgiveness or discharge of student debt is rare, if someone promises immediate loan forgiveness then it is a scam. Learn more about the other warning signs of a debt relief scam.
To learn more about loan forgiveness or alternative repayment programs, contact your loan servicer.
What to do:
Unemployment benefits scams
Scammers are fraudulently filing unemployment claims using stolen personal identity information. If you receive a 1099-G tax form for unemployment benefits that you didn’t claim or receive, you may be a victim of identity theft. Someone may have used your personal information to receive unemployment benefits without your knowledge.
What to do: Follow these four steps to report unemployment benefits fraud and to protect yourself:
Suspicious transactions and deposits
Some people have reported receiving prepaid cards in the mail with unemployment benefits that they didn’t apply for. Others have reported suspicious transactions and deposits in their bank accounts involving unemployment benefits. Once you receive the funds, a scammer may contact you, pretend to be from the government, and tell you the benefits were deposited by mistake. They will then ask you to send them the money .
What to do: If you receive an unexpected prepaid card for unemployment benefits or see an unexpected deposit from your state in your bank account, report it right away to your state unemployment insurance office and your bank or credit union. If you believe you have been the victim of identity theft, report the incident to your local police and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) .
What the courts need to do is different in different situations. In general, the Louisiana Supreme Court has ordered that video hearings (such as Zoom) should be used as much as possible for court hearings. Some courts are doing most of their hearings that way.
When the courts require people show up in person, the Louisiana Supreme Court has ordered the courts must take the steps needed to allow social distancing. Under the Governor’s Orders, courts must also enforce mask-wearing throughout the facility.
If you get a notice to go to court, you can call the Judge’s staff (but not the judge) and find out what can be done to keep safe.
If you have been told to come to court, but that would mean a higher risk of getting Covid than you have in your day to day life, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services may be able to help you. This includes if you would face a risk in getting to court. (For example, if you would have to use public transportation or get a ride from someone you are not normally close to.) Call our COVID-19 Helpline at 1-844-244-7871 to see if we can provide free help.
If you requested a hearing by video, you must provide the court with a good phone number and email address that you will be checking daily. The information for your videoconference hearing will likely be sent by email. If your contact information changes, you should let the court know as soon as possible.
You should check your email often (at least daily) leading up to your hearing, since the court may send information about your case and you may need to take action quickly.
Do not ignore the video hearing. If you cannot make the hearing, notify the court in advance (unless it was something like an emergency hospitalization).
If you cannot connect to the hearing using the information sent to you, contact the court immediately. If your connection drops during the hearing or if you are kicked off of the call, immediately try to get back in. If this does not work, contact the court.
If you are able to connect but cannot see or hear the other people on the call, do not just leave the meeting. Try to let the other people on the call know about the issues you are having by either speaking or using the “chat” feature on the program or calling the judge’s staff while the hearing is still happening.
If you do not connect for your hearing and do not answer if the court tries to contact you, a judgment may be entered against you. This may require you to file additional motion(s) and paperwork with the court, or else lose your case.
Other tips for your virtual hearing can be found here.
First call the judge’s staff. (Where to find the number is set out above.) Ask if a decision was made by the court on your case, and if so what can be done to undo it.
If you need help and do not have an attorney on the case, call our COVID-19 Helpline at 1-844-244-7871 to see if we can provide free help.
People do not generally have a choice about whether they are involved in court proceedings. (This is different, for example from going to a store or a restaurant where you might be able to “vote with your feet” and choose another restaurant or store if you feel that things are unsafe.)
To try to get things fixed you can:
You can also call Southeast Louisiana Legal Services if you are in a court case and need help keeping safe. Call our COVID-19 Helpline at 1-844-244-7871 to see if we can provide free help.
If you’re having trouble getting or paying for food, here are some programs that might help. Please scroll down for more information.
Note: Because of COVID-19 some of these programs have changed some rules and how the programs work to support social distancing and help low-income people get the food they need.
SNAP (also known as “food stamps”)
|Grab and Go meals at schools and other locations (see below)||WIC (see below)||
Other programs (see below)
|I lost my job or my hours were reduced because of COVID-19
I have children under 18 years old in my household
|I’m pregnant or I am a mom with a child under 5 years old.
No. While DSNAP was provided after previous federal disaster declarations, DSNAP has not been provided for this one. Instead, changes have been made to regular SNAP. For information on regular SNAP as affected by Covid, go to https://slls.org/snap/.
Most schools and some other organizations are providing free meals for children under 18 years old. For most programs, a guardian over 18 years old can pick up the meals. Children do not need to be physically present.
You can find information about grab and go meals from schools here: https://cnp.doe.louisiana.gov/ServingSites/.
If you’re in Baton Rouge, you can get more information at https://www.brla.gov/2163/Free-Meal-Pickup-Sites-for-Children
If you’re in New Orleans, you can get more information at https://ready.nola.gov/home/#food
To find more Grab and Go locations, call 211.
WIC supports pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants, and children (under 5 years old). WIC provides a card to buy specific nutritious foods, nutrition information, breastfeeding promotion, breastfeeding support and referrals to other health and social services.
Most WIC clinics are still open. Due to current COVID-19 precautions, LA WIC clinics are allowing participants and/or caregivers to stay in their vehicles for appointments. Your information will be collected over the phone and a member of the staff will come out to your vehicle. Please bring your ID, WIC card (if you already have one), and all other required documents with you.
Visit http://ldh.la.gov/index.cfm/page/987 for more updated information about WIC during COVID-19.
Call 1.800.251.BABY to apply or to get more information.
During COVID-19 many local governments, nonprofit organizations, and businesses have programs to help people access the food they need. These include food pantries, other “grab and go” meal pick-up sites, and food delivery for seniors and people with disabilities.
Call 211 to find out about other programs that are available.
If you’re in the New Orleans or Baton Rouge regions and you need emergency food assistance, call 311.
If you’re in New Orleans, you also can visit: https://ready.nola.gov/home/#food
For a printable version, click here.
Updated May 21, 2021.
I already have a consumer case in Louisiana state court.
Trials before juries were allowed to commence beginning on April 1, 2021. Cases before grand juries may continue. Check with the court in which your case is being heard to determine whether you must attend remotely or in person.
I filed a bankruptcy and have a hearing scheduled.
At this time, all bankruptcy hearings are being held via telephone. Check with the court in which your case is being heard to determine the correct number and procedure for calling in for your hearing.
I was served with a lawsuit before the courts closed. What do I do now?
Check with the Clerk’s Office for the status of your case. All courts have reopened at this time.
What do I do if I receive a notice from a court, a Justice of the Peace, or a Constable while the courts are closed?
If this happens to you, seek the advice of an attorney. You can apply for free legal help by calling the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services at one of the offices listed below.
Baton Rouge: 225-448-0080
New Orleans: 504-529-1000
Where should I report price gouging?
It is illegal for someone to increase the price of goods or services during (and up to 30 days after) a state of emergency. You can report suspected price gouging to the Louisiana Department of Justice at 800-351-4889 or at https://www.ag.state.la.us/Page/ConsumerDispute
Where should I report Coronavirus scams?
Some companies are selling unapproved or misbranded products, claiming they can treat or prevent Coronavirus – even though they have no evidence to back up their claims. Please go to reliable sources– like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) - for information about Coronavirus. If you suspect a Coronavirus scam, you can report it to the Louisiana Department of Justice at 800-351-4889 or at https://www.ag.state.la.us/Page/ConsumerDispute